There's a youthful, upbeat tone to the songs on "Eponymous" - at once radio friendly energy, mixed with a sacred "underground" vibe. Michael Stipe's serious image comes through somewhat on this album, but his words are pretty straightforward, earthy compared to later efforts.
R.E.M. have always been about sheer melody within their songs, and this album has plenty of that, top to bottom. "Gardening at Night" is at once very pop, a little punk, and a little new-wave; but like all the tunes on "Eponymous," it has a great sing-along chorus that's classic R.E.M, irresistable. With jangly guitars but tight song structures, as well as thoughtful lyrics sung passionately (not self-importantly), these twelve songs are a splendid representation of early R.E.M. in the '80s. The depth of such songs as "So. Central Rain," "Can't Get There from Here," and "Fall on Me" is simply astounding for such a young band. Musically very talented, focused and mature for their ages and occupations, it's easy to see how these guys eventually conquered the world with their music.
R.E.M. obviously didn't partake in all the sheeny, bombastic music that infiltrated the 1980s, but they still wrote highly anthemic tunes, and they prided themselves on their unique brand of thinking-man's pop for those willing to seek out better music during that time period. "Eponymous" is an outstanding collection of singles by a classic rock band, a band who has evolved into many different animals over the years. This is the band in a loose, non-self-conscious, charming light - a great rock band as they hurtled into the mainstream of America's radios and beyond.